Remembering Ellen Bernstein, 70, the ‘birthmother’ of Jewish environmentalism

By Shira Dicker
Jewish Telegaphic Agency
February 29, 2024

On Tuesday, I was jolted awake at 3:30 a.m., wrestling with unwelcome consciousness until I eventually exhausted or bored myself back to sleep.

Three hours later, I awoke to the news that my friend Ellen Bernstein — author, rabbi and the “birthmother of contemporary Jewish environmentalism” — had died in the middle of the night. I would claim that word of her passing, at the too-young age of 70, was shocking but for the fact that the previous day I visited her in the peaceful, homey Philadelphia hospital room where she was receiving hospice care, surrounded by friends, her husband Steven J. Tenenbaum and loyal dog, Ro’i.

For Ellen, who liked to luxuriate in time, the end came quickly: two weeks after a dire diagnosis, one week after the publication of what is sure to be her masterwork — “Toward a Holy Ecology: Reading the Song of Songs in the Age of Climate Crisis.” The biblical love song, she writes, “could be understood as a mediation on our relationship with nature, animated by love.”

Read the full article.